C-level is a term that business types like to toss around a lot. It describes high-ranking executive titles – the black suites – within an organization. C-level/C-suite positions are typically considered the most influential, and they are associated with high-stake decisions, high salaries, and very demanding work.
When a big company loses an executive, the hunt is on for someone to fill that chair. Executives aren’t irreplaceable, but they don’t grow on trees either. Which means that the job offer will be attractive as hell. In some cases, it’s so attractive that you might miss some important details. Details that actually matter more than a fat paycheck.
Steve Cook, Founder and Managing Partner of FortuneCMO and a former Samsung Electronics SVP, shares what he’s learned in 25+ years of working as CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) at some of the world’s biggest companies. In addition to heading the Korean electronic maker’s marketing division, Cook also served as CMO at The Coca-Cola Company and Procter & Gamble.
Is there any chemistry?
In an interview with Forbes contributor Kimberly A. Whitler, Cook relays that the more you advance in your career, the harder it gets to find a boss that matches your modus operandi. The company that wants you may have put a very attractive offer on the table, but is their culture on par with how you roll?
“You realize over time that ‘fit’ is really a requirement,” says Cook. “Do you fit well with the company culture? Is there chemistry and a strong relationship with your boss? Do you fit in well with the senior team. And yet what often happens is that companies woo you with compensation and you lose sight of the fundamental requirement: ‘is this a culture where I can fit and contribute to the best of my ability?’”
Some of us spend almost our entire lives trying to find out who we are. For those entrenched in the C-suite, it’s vital that they fully know themselves, in order to accurately decide who their next employer should be. According to Cook, “When the right company and boss fit occur, all other challenges seem to pale in comparison.”
Cross-check your job description, and reference-check your employer
When starting fresh at a new company, few things are worse than having your duties changed on the first day. That’s a lesson Cook says he learned the hard way. Which prompted him to establish a golden rule for his future ventures: get everything in writing.
“In a memo, summarize your understanding of the job, your responsibilities, who you report to, who reports to you, etc. prior to accepting the job.”
Also, don’t accept a job if your gut tells you otherwise, and be sure to reference-check your future boss and your C-Suite peers. Ideally, meet as many as you can and have a face-to-face discussion. Let your intuition tell you if you’re in the right spot or not.
Look for mentors
If you’re eyeing a company whose top brass inspires you, this is a good sign that you’re heading in the right direction. You want to be around people who are knowledgeable, even more knowledgeable than you, so you can constantly evolve.
Cook’s advice to aspiring C-level marketing leaders is to “Look for mentors in all of the areas that you want to grow in. Make sure to continually refresh them over time. Make sure you find people above you to help you and ‘pull you up.’”